In the year 2020, lockdown provided a time we all never thought we’d have – and banked on never having – to discover hidden gems on our ever-present streaming services. And in a way, what makes these services so special, is the hopeful promise to find something we’d otherwise never encounter, if only we had the time to really commit.
When you’ve heard the phrase, “hidden gem” as many times as rabid Spurs fan, showrunner, and prolific writer, Joe Barton has, it might just force you to neck your favorite cough syrup just to feel something. Giri/Haji was a BBC/Netflix and English/Japanese crime procedural starring Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting, Boardwalk Empire) and Takerhiro Hira (Sekigahara, Snake Eyes), it’s the hidden gem in question here. It introduced me to Joe, who’s since co-written alien-adjacent drama Encounter for Amazon Prime Video, YA series Half Bad: The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself for Netflix, and is working on the next Cloverfield film.
I met Joe digitally during this time, I got used to his now well-known and apparently unorthodox representation as a writer, that being his tattoo sleeves and well-trimmed hair. But when I catch up with him this time his eyes are a little baggier, his voice still upbeat although a little more tired. It’s been a few months… and usually, we convene in a mentor/mentee capacity, however, today we’re talking about his mind-bending sci-fi for Sky, starring Paapa Essiedu (Men, I May Destroy You), The Lazarus Project.
It’s so interesting, it’s funny how similar it is to Tenet. But it has all the things that the film really missed, like an emotionally intricate story and real characters. You don’t ever forget about how the characters have to figure out a new emotional navigation system.
You’re shooting season 2 now, right?
Yes, right now. As we speak.
Making Sense of The Lazarus Project
The Lazarus Project sees George (Paapa Essiedu), an app developer with a talent for pattern recognition, recruited by a secret government agency that prevents mass extinction events with the technology to turn back time. The first season premiered in the UK summer of 2022 and to some genuine critical acclaim (The Guardian called it a “fun, stylish brain-scrambler.”). The series is emotional in nature, its spine is built on the real-world effects on the mind and the body, while the scale is reduced for secondary scope. What would otherwise be another “save the world” adventure has been endowed with another edge entirely.
Every tiny moment is inescapable, in weight or as a plot pivot.